Friday, July 04, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

Most readers have probably heard about BushCo's astonishing decision to place solar projects in the desert West on hold for two years, so that federal officials could assess the environmental impact of solar energy. Thanks to public outcry, it has now decided not to stay the course.

“We’re encouraged that the B.L.M. lifted their moratorium, but we’re only halfway there,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “We now need to get them to expedite the permitting of the solar projects on public land.”

Mr. Resch said the decision was important given that while the bureau managed to approve a considerable number of oil and gas leases on public land, it “had yet to lease a single acre of land to the solar industry.”
A Georgia judge has ruled that a planned coal plant must obtain an emissions permit for its release of carbon dioxide:
Permit filings for the 1,200-megawatt Longleaf Energy Station coal plant, to be built by LS Power Group and Dynegy in Early County, Ga., did not include provisions detailing the plant's CO2 emissions. Yet EPD permitted it anyway on grounds that while CO2 may be a pollutant, the gas was not subject to regulation under the act.

Moore disagreed, saying the respondents' position "is untenable."

"There is no question that CO2 is subject to regulation under the act," Moore wrote.
The largest land conservation deal in US history has been announced:
{The] new reality - in which trees are worth more vertical than horizontal - was the inspiration behind the landmark conservation deal announced Monday....

The land purchase is expected to be complete in three years, and will place most of the 320,000 acres into either state or federal ownership. The small portion remaining in private hands will be burdened by conservation easements, allowing public access and continued timber harvest, but prohibiting subdivision and real estate development.
Pennsylvania is spending $120 million to address the problem of urban food deserts:
Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) is believed to be the nation’s only statewide public-private funding initiative dedicated to opening grocery stores in underserved areas. In three years, the $120 million fund has provided “gap financing” – money beyond what a grocer normally could receive in grants and loans – to open or update 52 supermarkets statewide, creating some 4,000 jobs in the process.
Wal-Mart claims that it will sell local fruits and vegetables:
[T]he Bentonville-based company has focused on buying fruits and vegetables from farms closest to its distribution centers, making shipping easier while cutting down on trucking in produce from outside of the area, said spokeswoman Deisha Galberth.

For example, the retail giant once bought peaches from only a few suppliers. Now, Wal-Mart buys 12 million pounds of peaches annually from farms in 18 different states, she said.

Because of that, the company estimates, it saves about 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year and cuts away 672,000 food miles - the distance produce travels from farm to a customer's plate. That adds up to $1.4 million in annual savings, Galberth said
In related news, Wal-Mart and CostCo are rolling out redesigned milk jugs to improve efficiency:
The boxier containers stack better, eliminating the need for milk crates and conserving space in trucks and on refrigerated store shelves....

The new jugs probably reduce the environmental impact of milk in other important ways. Greater efficiency means less spoilage, which will help to shave down the large carbon footprint associated with dairy farming. Further, the "cold supply chain" is notoriously responsible for leaked refrigerants, which are powerful global warming agents. In addition to reduced energy use, less refrigeration means fewer such pollutants.
As I've hinted before, I take a rather dim view of green incarceration and eco-militarism. Still, this article on sustainability at a California prison is interesting in that some inmates seem to be getting behind the idea:
"Despite the fact that we're in here, we're still members of society, and if we can do something for the environment before our re-entry — why not?" said Bobby Kang, 35, as he spread mustard on his sandwich with his re-usable red spork.

"We were wasting a lot of spoons; it was a big waste," said Ken Watson, a 37-year-old inmate recently convicted in San Mateo County Superior Court for murder.
I'm dreaming of a day when criminals will shoot people with lead-free bullets -- "eat composite polymers, copper!" -- and use hybrid getaway cars.

Speaking of which, Mercedes claims that its cars will stop running on fossil fuels by 2015.
Already Mercedes has taken steps towards developing the technologies necessary for a petroleum-free fleet of vehicles. New A and B class models feature a start-stop feature that cuts the engine while stopped at a red light for a 9% increased fuel efficiency rating, and they have announced a “BlueTec” smart diesel for the UK that boasts an 80% reduction in emissions.
This is kind of interesting:
While the U.S. oil industry want access to more federal lands to help reduce reliance on foreign suppliers, American-based companies are shipping record amounts of gasoline and diesel fuel to other countries.

A record 1.6 million barrels a day in U.S. refined petroleum products were exported during the first four months of this year, up 33 percent from 1.2 million barrels a day over the same period in 2007. Shipments this February topped 1.8 million barrels a day for the first time during any month, according to final numbers from the Energy Department.

The surge in exports appears to contradict the pleas from the U.S. oil industry and the Bush administration for Congress to open more offshore waters and Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
Utah is experimenting with four-day work week for government employees:
Turning off the lights, the heat and the air conditioning on Fridays in 1,000 of 3,000 government buildings will save about $3 million a year out of a state budget of $11 billion, according to the governor's spokeswoman, Lisa Roskelley. The state will also save on gasoline used by official vehicles, but authorities have not figured out how much
Childhood lead poisoning decreased dramatically in New York City last year:
The 2007 figure — 1,970 poisonings among children 6 months to 6 years of age — is a 90 percent decline since 1995, when nearly 20,000 children were identified with lead poisoning.
City officials in Sacramento, CA have wisely decided not to fine a couple who allowed their lawn to turn brown during the ongoing drought.
"When you think about all the water being wasted everywhere, it's horrible they would go after that poor woman," said Ursula Crabtree of Carmichael. "If this person is being persecuted, something is wrong with the system."
A Kansas grand jury has declined to charge a doctor who performs late-term abortions with any crime:
The grand jury was convened in January through a petition drive by anti-abortion groups seeking an investigation into whether Tiller violated state abortion laws.

In a statement released by the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office, the grand jury said:

"After six months of conducting an investigation that included hearing extensive witness testimony, reviewing volumes of documents and medical records of patients of Women's Health Care Services (Tiller's clinic), this Grand Jury has not found sufficient evidence to bring an indictment on any crime related to the abortion laws."
Low-caste excrement collectors in India are improving their lot in life by helping to improve sanitation.
Many Indians today still treat the waste-collectors as "untouchables" and don't let them approach their villages, schools or temples or come into contact with their food and drinking water.

"If I was thirsty, they would give me water but would avoid touching me," Chaumar said.

Five years ago, her scavenging days ended when she joined the Sulabh International Social Service Organization, a non-profit group working to improve sanitation in India and the conditions for this marginalized segment of society.
Brownsville, TX is fighting DHS plans for a border wall:
On Tuesday, in Brownsville, a hearing was held on the Border Wall proposal and after hours of emotional debate, the City decided to delay an agreement with the DHS.

Border wall opponent John Moore spoke at the Commission’s hearing - calling for residents to stand against the wall - and saying that nearly 98% of residents opposed the plan.
In Virginia, meanwhile, Loudoun County's board of supervisors has voted not to accept money from developers:
Loudoun County supervisors voted yesterday to bar themselves from accepting campaign contributions from builders and others with proposals before the board as part of a broad effort to restore public confidence in a body that some have viewed as too close to the development community.

Supervisors voted overwhelmingly for the change, with only Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling) dissenting. Delgaudio said such a policy was tantamount to curbing freedom of expression.
A lost version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis has been discovered:
The wires are a-buzzing with the sensational news that a 16mm print of a lost version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis has surfaced in Argentina, which may well be the original cut - around a quarter of the original film is missing from existing prints. The German newspaper Die Zeit has reported the news and published a gallery of startling images from the previously lost sequences of the film.

This is fascinating, and a little frightening:
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have devised the first computerized method that can analyze a single photograph and determine where in the world the image likely was taken. It's a feat made possible by searching through millions of GPS-tagged images in the Flickr online photo collection.
I have enormous and intractable problems with Christopher Hitchens. But I admire the fact that he was willing to undergo waterboarding, and I respect the conclusions he drew from it.
One used to be told—and surely with truth—that the lethal fanatics of al-Qaeda were schooled to lie, and instructed to claim that they had been tortured and maltreated whether they had been tortured and maltreated or not. Did we notice what a frontier we had crossed when we admitted and even proclaimed that their stories might in fact be true? I had only a very slight encounter on that frontier, but I still wish that my experience were the only way in which the words “waterboard” and “American” could be mentioned in the same (gasping and sobbing) breath.
If you're looking for a worthy group to donate money to, I suggest AIDG (see, for example, this). You might also consider contacting the NOAA, which "is seeking comments through July 23 on its proposed authorization for U.S. Navy training exercises around the main Hawaiian Islands," or urging your representative to support the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (H.R. 5756).

Now, then. BibliOdyssey outdoes itself yet again with Scrapbook Florilegium.

The first photographs from Korea, (via Plep), portraits of schoolgirls from the borderlands of Anatolia, and zoological illustrations from colonial Victoria.

Furthermore: Oral histories from the Nevada Test Site. Many photos of a strange Russian building (text is in Russian). Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City. The watercolors of Thomas Burrowes.

Last, but not least, insects.

(Photo at top: "Exclamation" by Don Jim.)


chris said...

No doubt US gasoline is being shipped to Canada because we're paying $1.50 a litre for it. And it does help to keep your prices high. Wouldn't want any oil company CEOs to go hungry.
That Russian tower is the secret lair of my dreams! Want!
Thanks Phila. Happy 4th.

Anonymous said...

I hate it when people suggest topics for me to blog about, but I just can't stop myself.

Phila, I am curious to know what you think of nuclear energy. Especially in Europe (where I live), it's becoming close to conventional wisdom that large-scale nuclear-plant building is the only way to avoid becoming too dependent on Russian oil and gas or contributing to global warming. The moderate position is yes, invest in alternative and renewable energy, but be realistic about the short-term practicality of these sources and go nuclear in the meantime, faute de mieux.

What do you think of this? Are these industry shills, or should we be taking this argument seriously? If you happen to feel like addressing the issue, I'd be really curious to know what you think.

Phila said...


I think it's easy to praise nuclear power in the abstract. To me, what's pertinent is the actual practices of the firms that build and run and secure the plants, and deal with their waste. Perhaps there's a civilization that's up to the challenge and the responsibility, but we're not it, morally or technologically. In my opinion.

At the very least, I think any country that produces nuclear waste needs to store it within their own borders (as I previously argued more transshipping and trading in the stuff. But overall, the "large scale" plant-building people that advocates are talking about, and the amount of uranium mining and processing they'd require, seems rather fanciful. And the political side of the process is likely to be extremely ugly, in my view. I'd also want to see an international fuel bank, which is a bit hard to imagine in the current political climate.

Plus, I can't help wondering what we might achieve, globally, if the money it'd take to build Gordon Brown's 1000 plants were invested elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

The weird building--not Russian per se, but in one of the republics in the Caucasus mountains called Kabardino-Balkaria. The Balkars, who built this tower, are a Turkic-speaking people.

It is now a museum.

Anonymous said...

The boxier containers stack better, eliminating the need for milk crates and conserving space in trucks and on refrigerated store shelves....

No milk crates? What the hell are college age men supposed to make furniture out of now?

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